Power Records: The Man-Thing in Night of the Laughing Dead (1974)

Laughing Dead 1974

Remember when I said that the Amazing Spider-Man Rockomic From Beyond the Grave (1972) was the weirdest, scariest shit ever marketed to kids? I stand corrected. That honor (for now, anyway) has been passed along to Night of the Laughing Dead. The story, by Steve Gerber, is adapted from Man-Thing Vol. 1 #5. (Beware: spoilers ahead.)

Our story begins with a weeping clown, his copious make-up smeared from tears, putting a gun to his head and pulling the trigger. The Man-Thing, a tortured, unreasoning beast who vaguely and painfully recalls his former life as a human being, hears the shot and finds the dead clown face down in the swamp. The creature picks him up, intending to bury him. The music kicks in: it sounds like a cat being sawed in half in slow motion.

Meanwhile, the clown’s girlfriend, who’s upset because she “betrayed” him, gets beat up by the carnival manager. Two hippies rescue her and they all go looking for “her clown.” They find him on the side of the road. He seems to be fine. But he’s not. Because he’s dead. The kids follow the silent apparition into the marsh.

The carnival manager and his meathead henchman, the carnival strongman, speed after the hippies and the clown’s girlfriend. They find the clown too, seemingly alive, and swerve to miss him. The truck hits a tree and explodes. The carnival manager burns to a crisp. The clown taunts the meathead in an evil clown voice, laughing the laugh of an evil, dead, insane clown. The meathead takes the bait and plows after him/it.

Dead ClownNot too far away, the kids, lost in the poisonous marsh, see the Man-Thing carrying the dead clown’s body. Ayla, the girlfriend, screams and rushes to her man, cradling the dead body in her arms, weeping. The hippies wonder: hey, if the clown is dead, what exactly was it we saw head into the swamp a few minutes ago?

The strongman arrives, picks up the clown corpse and implores it to “stand up and get beat to death like a man.” One of the hippies tries to stop him, and the meathead knocks him out. The Man-Thing intercedes, fighting the strongman and eventually drowning him in the swamp.

The ghost of the clown rises from the corpse and explains in the evil, insane clown voice that he’s finally found peace. You see, all clowns want to do is make people laugh, and clowns can’t make people laugh when they’re betrayed and all they feel is pain. But now, because his soul is free and there’s no more pain, he can laugh forever. He laughs his evil clown laugh, and the Man-Thing thinks to his miserable self: never has laughter made me feel so sad. Eerie rock music fades in. The End.

As Sanctum Sanctorum Comix notes, the story continues in Man-Thing #6, but Power Records didn’t produce the second act. I wonder if that’s because all the kids who listened to the first act crapped in their pants before dying of terror.

Read the whole book at Rob Kelly’s Power Records blog. Listen to the whole record below, if you dare.

(First image via My Comic Shop; video via Brandon Hex)

4 Responses to “Power Records: The Man-Thing in <em>Night of the Laughing Dead</em> (1974)”

  1. 1 His friend J October 10, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    Damn. Maybe you should have saved that one for Halloween day. We do this Halloween kids thing every year at work, so I will suggest this for them. It has everything: clowns, hippies, swamp creatures, carnies…

  2. 4 christian October 11, 2013 at 6:29 am

    Gerber’s Man-Thing stories were always extremely grim – and I still have my Spiderman Rockcomic LP (I always thought the theme song was hilarious in its swaggering Shaft style…)

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